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Tales From The Zoo

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The Wahoonie
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Tales from the Zoo

I think I went to my first Zoo when I was six. Some of the animals were frightening to me. I remember having dreams of the Zoo where the elephants were the size of skyscrapers. Even at an early age I realized that some of the animals were hostile and that there was a good reason for the bars and glass walls. Though then we came to the Tiger cage. I wasn’t scared. It just looked like a bigger version of one of the cats my family owned. I loved my cats. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t touch the Tiger. Why I couldn’t run my hand under its jaw and rub its nose. I was told that it was a different type of cat. One that would hurt me. As a six year old my mind whirled. I couldn’t understand why anything would want to hurt me much less a cat.

As I got older it made even less sense to me. I probably visited the zoo two or three times in my early teens. I was always in a group of other kids on some sort of field trip.

There was one time, I was maybe thirteen. I had gone on a field trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo with the local Boys Club. I roamed the zoo and for once I wondered if the animals there were really happy. Yes they had as much as they could eat healthily. They had shelter and people who truly cared for them. It was a conundrum in my mind as to why they should be unhappy.

We then came to the Tiger cage. The tiger was pacing back and forth. I thought at first that it was hurt and that something had to be wrong. The rest of my group moved on though I didn’t. I stood and stared at the Tiger. I loved that tiger and I wanted to hold him. I wanted to take him far away. Before the whole group the tiger stopped pacing and sat dead in front of me. He stared at me and I stared back and I understood everything. I crawled under the bar and put both hand on the glass. The tiger along with the group who had gathered behind me just stared.

I started crying, no not crying sobbing. I couldn’t say why if I wanted to. The tiger kept watch, it stared at me I eventually walked away sliding my hand on the glass. The tiger watched me go.

I thought about that moment in my life frequently.

I often wondered if it would be worth it if the tiger escaped. Yes it would be a brief glimpse of freedom before he was likely shot with a tranquilizer dart and woke up back in the glass cage.

The tiger was out of his natural environment, he couldn’t hope to live outside his glass cage in his immediate area. He had become dependent on his keepers. I honestly think the tiger knew this.

I had a bad day at work the other day. Not that many are good but they are tolerable. I was walking back and forth in the front windows of my store remerchandising the displays. A couple with their child walked bye on the sidewalk. The couple walked ahead but the boy stopped and looked at me, not the toys on either side, me. I stopped and looked back at him. There was a look of sadness in his eyes as he ran his hand along the windows of my store never taking his eyes off of me. It makes me wonder if for a brief moment he witnessed his own future as I did long ago.

"I've got a silver spoon on a chain.. I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains. I've got wide staring eyes. I've got a strong urge to fly!! But I've got nowhere to fly to."
-Pink Floyd

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